Smyrna resident Howard Johnson opened up The Odd Fellows Café on South Main Street last year shortly after moving to a new house in Smyrna from Clayton. The café is one of the restaurants in the state that are part of the farm-to-table movement. Johnson recently took a few minutes to talk with the Sun-Times about why he made his restaurant a farm-to-table café and why it's important to him.
Q Why is the farm to table movement important to you?
A It allowed us to position ourselves between fine dining and diner service. So it's casual here but we have high quality. As a resident of the town, it's important we represented the state and that we represented out community. Cordel Farms supplies us with our ground beef. TA Farms provides us with our pork, poultry and beef. We still stay within the state.
Q Do you get your produce locally?
A We get a majority of our produce from Willey Farms. We will be purchasing any produce we can from the farmers market here in town. Even when we purchase from Willey's, we purchase local if they have it. Last fall we got gorgeous apples and we used them for our desserts and with our pork chops.
Q How does this benefit you and your customers?
A I think they recognize the commitment to the quality of the product we serve. The consumer really prefers to have fresh [food] and the local support. The biggest misconception is that our prices are too high until the consumer understands and finds out that its farm fresh products we're serving; then they understand the reason for our price positioning.
Q What dishes do you use these products in?
A We use our fresh turkey breast for our reuben sandwiches and our clubs. We use our bacon for a multitude of sandwiches and breakfast platters. Of course we use our beef for hamburgers.
Q When did you start using local products?
A The reason we became a farm-to-table restaurant was because it was a request from Janet Vinc [manager of planning and zoning in Smyrna]. When we were developing the restaurant prior to opening, she said we should position ourselves as a farm-to-table to support the farmers market and we agreed to do that. Janet was very instrumental in making this a farm-to-table café. I would say she's the reason we've survived because being positioned as a farm-to-table restaurant was probably the niche that we needed in order to develop the relationship we have with the downtown historical district.
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